Robotic abiogenesis trope

tinkerdan

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It is definitely not plausible....
And do you think the trope of electronic devices spontaneously linking together into "organisms" is plausible?
And you don't need to worry there could be nothing like that right now.
There is nothing like that.
Regards,
The National Bureau of Implausible Deniability.
If you see anything suspicious please contact us at N-boid using the address below.

01010100 01101000 01100101 00100000 01000101 01101110 01100100 00100000 01001001 01110011 00100000 01001110 01100101 01100001 01110010 00001010

01101110 01101111 01110111 01101000 01100101 01110010 01100101 00001010

01010111 01100001 01110011 01101000 01101001 01101110 01100111 01110100 01101111 01101110 00100000 01000100 01000011 00001010 00001010

01010101 01010011 00100000 01111010 01101001 01110000 00100000 00110010 00110000 00110110 00110110 00110110 00001010 00001010

::NOTE:: select and insert into binary to text converter.
 

Mad Alice

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If you think about it a WiFi activated house is already functioning like that but at an amoeba level.
A proto-organism if you would.
 

hitmouse

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If you think about it a WiFi activated house is already functioning like that but at an amoeba level.
A proto-organism if you would.
I am not sure I understand the analogy. Can you explain please?
 

Dave

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a WiFi activated house is already functioning like that but at an amoeba level.
I am not sure I understand the analogy. Can you explain please?
An interesting question!

A junior school KS2 level definition of a "living thing" would be something like: any organism, or a life form, that possesses or shows the characteristics of life, or being alive. The fundamental characteristics that are held by something being alive are: having an organized structure, requiring energy, responding to stimuli and adapting to environmental changes, and capable of reproduction, growth, movement, metabolism, and death. I remeber being taught that in school Biology lessons.

I think that is an extremely simplistic definition that does not hold up to scrutiny against all forms of what we might consider life, or to others that we consider not to be life. It might work with animals and plants, but is severely deficient on fungi, protists, archaea, and bacteria. Are viruses life? However, I don't have another definition to offer to you, so for the sake of an experiment lets use that and play around with it.

So, let's consider a WiFi activated house, where all the lights, heating and electrical appliances are blue-toothed, and there is some central processing unit, control machine with a clock, and the ability to make decisions based on environmental factors.

Does it have an organised structure? - tick!
Does it require energy? - tick!
Does it respond to stimuli and adapt to environmental changes? - tick!
Is it capable of reproduction? - not yet, but if you attached a 3D printer it could start to make copies of itself.
Is it capable of growth? - as above, it could grow in size and attach more appliances, it could also repair broken pathways. A vacuum cleaner and lawn mower could be classed as maintenance and repair, but to repair appliances and wiring then you will need more sophisticated robots than we currently have. Not impossible. - tick!
Is it capable of movement? - yes, if a plant's movement is counted as movement, then vacuum cleaners and lawn mowers move. - tick!
Does it have a metabolism? A sticking point maybe! It will run of electricity and gas, but these could be generated by solar cells and by methane recovery from garden waste biogenesis, and they could also be blue-toothed appliances that come on and off stream as required by the CPU. -tick!
Can it die? Machines can suffer the blue screen of death as much as any animal or plant can shrivel up and die. - tick!

I'd say that there is no current building at present that could be counted as a "living thing" under that definition, but that we do have the technology now to create one. I think the problem with that definition is that it doesn't include many other things that define living things:

Our ability to communicate with others - even trees talk to each other. The house could, however, use the internet and the telephone, but it would need a much more sophisticated control mechanism than Alexa or Echo.

Our ability to "self-repair" is vitally important and a house is, at the present time, unable to fix a broken toaster or TV set. It could, however, order a replacement online, or book an appointment with an engineer (not sure how it would pay for those?)
 

hitmouse

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An interesting question!

A junior school KS2 level definition of a "living thing" would be something like: any organism, or a life form, that possesses or shows the characteristics of life, or being alive. The fundamental characteristics that are held by something being alive are: having an organized structure, requiring energy, responding to stimuli and adapting to environmental changes, and capable of reproduction, growth, movement, metabolism, and death. I remeber being taught that in school Biology lessons.

I think that is an extremely simplistic definition that does not hold up to scrutiny against all forms of what we might consider life, or to others that we consider not to be life. It might work with animals and plants, but is severely deficient on fungi, protists, archaea, and bacteria. Are viruses life? However, I don't have another definition to offer to you, so for the sake of an experiment lets use that and play around with it.

So, let's consider a WiFi activated house, where all the lights, heating and electrical appliances are blue-toothed, and there is some central processing unit, control machine with a clock, and the ability to make decisions based on environmental factors.

Does it have an organised structure? - tick!
Does it require energy? - tick!
Does it respond to stimuli and adapt to environmental changes? - tick!
Is it capable of reproduction? - not yet, but if you attached a 3D printer it could start to make copies of itself.
Is it capable of growth? - as above, it could grow in size and attach more appliances, it could also repair broken pathways. A vacuum cleaner and lawn mower could be classed as maintenance and repair, but to repair appliances and wiring then you will need more sophisticated robots than we currently have. Not impossible. - tick!
Is it capable of movement? - yes, if a plant's movement is counted as movement, then vacuum cleaners and lawn mowers move. - tick!
Does it have a metabolism? A sticking point maybe! It will run of electricity and gas, but these could be generated by solar cells and by methane recovery from garden waste biogenesis, and they could also be blue-toothed appliances that come on and off stream as required by the CPU. -tick!
Can it die? Machines can suffer the blue screen of death as much as any animal or plant can shrivel up and die. - tick!

I'd say that there is no current building at present that could be counted as a "living thing" under that definition, but that we do have the technology now to create one. I think the problem with that definition is that it doesn't include many other things that define living things:

Our ability to communicate with others - even trees talk to each other. The house could, however, use the internet and the telephone, but it would need a much more sophisticated control mechanism than Alexa or Echo.

Our ability to "self-repair" is vitally important and a house is, at the present time, unable to fix a broken toaster or TV set. It could, however, order a replacement online, or book an appointment with an engineer (not sure how it would pay for those?)
Thanks. I have a degree in zoology and have spent time studying amoebae and other protists, so admittedly I probably see these things from a slightly different perspective than many .
The high- school definition of life is useful at the high school stage but is held to be a little trite beyond that level. I dont have a problem with the op question possibly being satisfied at some stage, but the analogy of a wifi- enabled house functioning at the level of an amoeba does not convince me.
 
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Dave

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Ah! Okay, it was the "amoeba" part you baulked at?

In that case, do you know a better, more up-to-date, scientific definition of what "life" is, or an "organism" is? It strikes me, that is impossible to answer the OP's question unless we have a definition we can all agree upon. I see many definitions of intelligent life, usually based around the Turing Test, or at least, an ability to alter ones environment, but just plain "life" is much harder to describe. At a very basic level, isn't it is just chemical reactions and organic chemistry. Even NASA look at H2/CH4 ratios on Mars and are looking at a very narrow concept of life.

I'm also not sure that I do think "electronic devices spontaneously linking together" is plausible. It would be the "spontaneously" part that I would have trouble with. It could not be accidental, it would need to be either by intelligent design or by trial and error - evolution, if you will - with a record of previous failures and half successes along the way. Hardly spontaneous!

Edit: I also apologise for any offence caused by my "trite" comments. From the second post, I assumed this thread would continue to be a "fun" philosophical discussion thread rather than one that that would forensically compare the characteristics of a semi-detached with an amoeba.
 

Mad Alice

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I am not sure I understand the analogy. Can you explain please?
Proto organisms along the lines of aggregated proteins or pre-cells.
You have a virus or other entity that collects together necessary clumpings of matter that would say define a pre-cell state. The clumping is not yet completely self sufficient but relys upon other aggregate proto forms in a electronic or more simple an electric network of change and continuation.
If we think of ourselves as the virus initiating change and overseeing the changes involved in using complex matrices of change for a given environment, and then we can see the rooms or other homes we establish as our individual bubble nests of protocells as having both a physicality and an electronic or electric feedback system capable of growth and expansion.
@Dave I quite liked your living house etiology.
 

Venusian Broon

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Thanks. I have a degree in zoology and have spent time studying amoebae and other protists, so admittedly I probably see these things from a slightly different perspective than many .
The high- school definition of life is useful at the high school stage but is held to be a little trite beyond that level. I dont have a problem with the op question possibly being satisfied at some stage, but the analogy of a wifi- enabled house functioning at the level of an amoeba does not convince me.
I am no biologist, and although it is tempting as a SF writer to think that something as simple as a WiFi connected house might have some spark of life - there are some intriguing ideas to play with in abstract - I think I am with you. A WiFi router needs something much more than any sort of 3D printer to 'reproduce' that we might concievably come up with in the next few decades :)

Let me quote this from a paper 'Synthetic organisms and Living Machines" by Deplazes and Huppenbauer:

"...As mentioned before, both types of entities (living organisms and machines) seem to follow a specific program. In case of the organism the genetic program has developed through evolution optimizing the “fitness” of its carrier. It includes the abilities of self-production, self-organization and self-maintenance, which according to several authors, are most characteristic features of living organisms; they are summarized under the term “autopoiesis” (Luisi 2003). Autopoietic systems thus comprise or contain their own body plan and produce their own structures from organic material without direct external control or regulation. The fulfillment of the program, which implies survival and reproduction, thus does not serve any external purpose but is in the interest of the organism itself and its species. In contrast, the program of machines has been designed and written by human beings, and its fulfillment serves human purposes. Nothing can be in the interest of a machine but only in the interest of its owner who profits from it. "

I do think if you make systems complex enough, you might get spontanteous development of 'behaviours' (anomalies? artefacts? entities?) that were unexpected. But to generate life, I just don't think we humans make systems complex enough for such interactions to appear. (At least currently!) And definitely not in just one home. As the passage above makes very clear, machines, WiFi networks, PC's etc all serve human purposes. This by necessity puts major restrictions on what the system does and the design of the machines themselves and thus, in my 'umble opinion, probably makes the appearence of 'anomalies' by chance to be very slight.
 

TomMazanec

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Venusian Broon said:
I do think if you make systems complex enough, you might get spontanteous development of 'behaviours' (anomalies? artefacts? entities?) that were unexpected.

Are we approaching that point now? For example, could the Flash Crash of 2010 be such an early anomaly?
 

Mad Alice

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Yes but an individual doesn't require sentience of its own or even it's own repair and reconstruction mechanisms to be considered "living". A cell lives. A cell does not necessarily need a brain or repair systems if it's part of something bigger. And a paracytic cell most certainly doesnt.
The individual cell is like a takeout hamburger. It fulfills it's role then dies, the disposable cup of nature.
In that way a house is part of a bigger structure. A hive entity dependant upon the larger collective conciousness. It lives by purpose. Derelict of purpose it dies, like the cell.
However while the house or cell serves it's purpose, it is maintained and therefore protected by the aegis of the larger system. Should the cell or house be destroyed, as long as it's purpose is maintained it's vital operations can be transfered to another cell or house and not be considered to have died.
 

Venusian Broon

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Are we approaching that point now? For example, could the Flash Crash of 2010 be such an early anomaly?
That's an interesting thought. Trading and the question of 'what is value', or how to value the future is a tricksy subject.

If you were to press a gun against my head, I'd say - assuming that the crash was caused by high frequency trading algorithms - then no it wasn't an example.

Markets do crash if liquidity drys up - plenty of examples of humans crashing finanacial markets by themselves! :) Possibly a lot of trading algorithms that took part, had not been programmed to recognise the specific set of conditions that caused them to pump out sell orders. (Or the trader was away at lunch and didn't get back quick enough to pull the plug out of their PC!)

I was thinking about emergent behaviour, behaviour that no-one could predict given the behaviour of the simple 'atoms' (in this case the individual traders with or without their tradiing algorithms) that make up the system. No one wants crashes in markets, yet they do happen and I am sure they will continue to happen, so in this case I wouldn't say it was really an anomaly.

So in summary, I don't think the collection of trading algorithms is complex enough!
 

hitmouse

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Apologies if I have been dogmatic. I think this is a fun discussion. Complex AI is interesting because it already throws up solutions to problems that work, are unexpected, and which its human developers do not necessarily understand. It can also develop its own algorithms, so one could say that it develops iteratively. It can be modular and decentralised. Given the correct coding and infrastructure it could probably “programme” a blank server. I think we have to get away from conventional biological definitions of life in this setting. The philosophical discussion of what is consciousness is even more complex, and I think that getting stuck on comparisons with conventional biology is sort of missing the (most interesting) point, and it limits thinking.
What we can reasonably say is that some programmes can demonstrate intelligent-like or life-like (as opposed to lifelike) behaviours in some limited circumstances. This is clearly going to get more interesting.

In terms of house/single celled organism comparison: the house ( for humans) is more like a shell picked up by a hermit crab, whether or not it has thermostatic heating or a wifi- enabled fridge. A unicell, in fact all life is fundamentally dedicated to self-propogation, involving respiration, cell division, reproduction etc whether conscious or not. Wifi is just wiring and radio at the end of the day.
 

Dave

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What we can reasonably say is that some programmes can demonstrate intelligent-like or life-like (as opposed to lifelike) behaviours in some limited circumstances.
I read Stephen Hawking's Brief Answers to the Big Questions (2018) and he very clearly agreed with this in one answer.
all life is fundamentally dedicated to self-propagation...
But so are viruses. Which was why I asked that question earlier. As also are computer viruses too.
...involving respiration, cell division, reproduction etc whether conscious or not...
But those properties viruses do not have, so maybe those are more important to what defines "life".
I think we have to get away from conventional biological definitions of life in this setting.
Yes, maybe we do ask the wrong questions when we try to compare, and that those questions have no real relevance. I still find it interesting though.
 

jd73

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An interesting question!

A junior school KS2 level definition of a "living thing" would be something like: any organism, or a life form, that possesses or shows the characteristics of life, or being alive. The fundamental characteristics that are held by something being alive are: having an organized structure, requiring energy, responding to stimuli and adapting to environmental changes, and capable of reproduction, growth, movement, metabolism, and death. I remeber being taught that in school Biology lessons.

I think that is an extremely simplistic definition that does not hold up to scrutiny against all forms of what we might consider life, or to others that we consider not to be life. It might work with animals and plants, but is severely deficient on fungi, protists, archaea, and bacteria. Are viruses life? However, I don't have another definition to offer to you, so for the sake of an experiment lets use that and play around with it.

So, let's consider a WiFi activated house, where all the lights, heating and electrical appliances are blue-toothed, and there is some central processing unit, control machine with a clock, and the ability to make decisions based on environmental factors.

Does it have an organised structure? - tick!
Does it require energy? - tick!
Does it respond to stimuli and adapt to environmental changes? - tick!
Is it capable of reproduction? - not yet, but if you attached a 3D printer it could start to make copies of itself.
Is it capable of growth? - as above, it could grow in size and attach more appliances, it could also repair broken pathways. A vacuum cleaner and lawn mower could be classed as maintenance and repair, but to repair appliances and wiring then you will need more sophisticated robots than we currently have. Not impossible. - tick!
Is it capable of movement? - yes, if a plant's movement is counted as movement, then vacuum cleaners and lawn mowers move. - tick!
Does it have a metabolism? A sticking point maybe! It will run of electricity and gas, but these could be generated by solar cells and by methane recovery from garden waste biogenesis, and they could also be blue-toothed appliances that come on and off stream as required by the CPU. -tick!
Can it die? Machines can suffer the blue screen of death as much as any animal or plant can shrivel up and die. - tick!

I'd say that there is no current building at present that could be counted as a "living thing" under that definition, but that we do have the technology now to create one. I think the problem with that definition is that it doesn't include many other things that define living things:

Our ability to communicate with others - even trees talk to each other. The house could, however, use the internet and the telephone, but it would need a much more sophisticated control mechanism than Alexa or Echo.

Our ability to "self-repair" is vitally important and a house is, at the present time, unable to fix a broken toaster or TV set. It could, however, order a replacement online, or book an appointment with an engineer (not sure how it would pay for those?)

Going back to my undergraduate AI classes, l I'd say something needs a goal in order to become analogous to life. Living things seem to have a purpose, a point in existing. I don't mean some metaphysical thing, but just a short term goal: to survive, to proliferate, to reproduce, to dominate. Then it needs to be able to realistically meet that goal, either by becoming animated to go and achieve it, or by having the environment act on it in such a way that helps it along. A wi-fi enabled house doesn't really do that from what I can see, though the family living in it might.

Viruses though. Maybe computer viruses might qualify as being analogous to life, if they are intelligent enough. They have a goal and the means to achieve it. I'm sure there are a billion studies out there about this

TL;DR - what does the house want? Huh. I suppose one could ask the same of our characters:)
 

hitmouse

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There is a nice school of thought in biology that looks at life as a gene’s way of making more copies of itself. The argument has been pretty influential for several decades. I recommend The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins if anyone is really Interested.

Viruses are fascinating since they are parasitic self-replicating machines, presumably bits of errant cellular machinery, which subvert host cellular processes, but viral particles have no intrinsic metabolism themselves. So, not really fully alive in the normal cellular sense, but fall into a bit of a grey area.
Similarly, self-replicating Infectious prion proteins, which cause diseases such as Scrapie, BSE, and Creutzfeld-Jacob Disease. Pretty astonishing when we finally realised that there were no nucleic acids at all involved inthe infective process. So, even farther from the easy definition of what constitutes life.
 
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